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Sycamore museum unveils new 'Play' exhibit

Carol Johnson of Sycamore examines some of the items that will be on display during Sycamore History Museum's newest exhibit, "Play." which opens today.
Carol Johnson of Sycamore examines some of the items that will be on display during Sycamore History Museum's newest exhibit, "Play." which opens today.

SYCAMORE – Not all history is old, but it can be fun.

“History is something that happened yesterday,” Michelle Donahoe, executive director of the Sycamore History Museum, said. “It doesn’t have to be 100 years old.”

Donahoe shared that observation last Thursday during a sneak preview of the museum’s newest exhibit, “Play.” The exhibit will officially open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the museum, 1730 N. Main St., Sycamore.

Donahoe said “Play” is “more light-hearted” than the previous exhibit, “How Sycamore Works,” which ended last month. It was “a lot of fun putting this together,” she said.

Since January, Donahoe and a staff of volunteers have been sorting through a number of sources, including Roger Maveus’ “Grandpa Tell Me What You Did When You Were Little,” back issues of the Sycamore True Republican and Sycamore Tribune newspapers, the Sycamore High School class of 1956 website and interviews of local residents conducted by fourth graders.

The exhibit is divided into four sections: Play by Play, Playing Around, Playing Together and Play Time. Each one contains specific activities. The first one, for instance, is a look at local sports, past and present.

Years ago, Donahoe said, the local semi-professional baseball teams were so good that members of the Cubs and White Sox would frequently come out to play exhibitions on their off days.

There was also a trampoline enthusiast, Bob Billinger, who trained a number of world champions, including two-time national champion Nancy Kay Smith. Another was Judi Ford of Belvidere, who used trampoline exercises to win the Miss America title in 1969.

Another section includes games, including one invented by former Sycamore resident Ronald Beck, roller skates, uniforms and other memorabilia. There are also sections on the old movie theater, Marlyn’s Majorettes, the Pumpkin Festival and the old kiddie’s parade.

Regardless of the subject, it will undoubtedly stir up memories for someone. Longtime Sycamore resident Carol Johnson fell to reminiscing at the preview when Donahoe mentioned the city’s old swimming pool.

“There used to be a kiddie pool (in town) that was 8 feet deep,” Johnson recalled. “You had to climb down a ladder. I was afraid of heights and I fell.”

Donahoe said the exhibit will probably run until the end of September 2013.

If you go: History Museum Fall Festival

1-4 p.m. Saturday
Sycamore History Museum
1730 N. Main St., Sycamore

Adults $5, children 13 and younger free

Crafts, refreshments and guided tours of the museum's new exhibit, "Play."

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